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Martha Ferguson: Creative Spaces Reflection

We asked our Creative Spaces 23/24 Alumni to reflect on their experience completing the programme. First up is Martha Ferguson, read about her experiences as a spacer below.

Creative Spaces Showcase 2024 – Image by Owen Davies

Last May, I joined the Creative Spaces programme with Sahar, Korey and Mia; excited yet nervous to throw myself into something completely new. Having appreciated the work of The Stove from afar, I wasn’t sure if I had anything meaningful to offer as someone without a creative practice and with very little knowledge about community arts.

However, during the recruitment process and our induction week, I was reassured that I wasn’t expected in my role to spend 14 hours a week coming up with groundbreaking ideas through blue sky thinking. To my pleasant surprise, I learned that the reality of creative work is that a significant proportion of it is logistics – something that was much more my comfort zone as an ex-paralegal.

What came as the biggest surprise to me, and perhaps the greatest gift I have taken away from my 10 months, is how much I actually enjoyed the parts of the role that initially terrified me. It is precious proof that I can actually be a creator myself and be part of a community that I have deeply admired as a bystander my whole life. 

At such an early stage of my creative career in set design, I know how difficult it is to explore your interests and create a practice on your own. On this point, I feel extremely lucky to have been given the opportunity to experiment with and learn from other creatives within the safe realm of community arts. Getting the chance to engage with different parts of the community and through a variety of mediums opened my eyes to types of creative work that I didn’t realise existed and helped me understand what I am passionate about.

I’m glad that we decided from the outset to develop our programme based upon our areas of passion – a decision which felt like a bit of a risk in terms of being as inclusive as possible and catering to the wide range of interests of our target audience. However, it was a risk that ultimately paid off because who wants to attend an event that feels detached from the team that produced it and inauthentic? This lifted what felt like a huge responsibility to engage with and change the lives of every single young person in D&G. I learned after ten months that simply providing a space and time for like-minded people to meet and talk reaped huge benefits in and of itself.

Completing a personal project was the part of the Creative Spaces programme that terrified me the most. I remember early last year discussing with my parents the conclusions I had drawn from obsessive online research on the best way to get into art departments within film and TV if you have no production experience – to produce a self-led fictional design project. It acts as a well-rounded portfolio piece that showcases various skills attractive to hiring managers, and skills I unfortunately did not have. I remember how defeated I felt after that conversation knowing that completing a project like that felt so out of reach.

The fact that one year later I can proudly say my personal project achieved this goal of mine is testament to how much my confidence in my own capabilities has grown with the support of Creative Spaces. But also the importance of organisations like The Stove who lend the necessary expertise, funding, time and space to create – a privilege that most aspiring creatives do not have. I often wonder what stage I would be at now if I hadn’t collected these valuable experiences through Creative Spaces or, even scarier, if I would have given up on my dream completely. If I had the power, I would make Creative Spaces a compulsory rite of passage for every young person in D&G as it gives you the freedom to explore different ideas with the necessary support and a level of independence needed to survive in the scary world of work. 

Written by Martha Ferguson

Situated in the heart of Dumfries, Creative Spaces collaborates with young creatives from across the region, providing young people with opportunities to engage in the arts. Whether it’s through events, workshops, mentorships, or our annual Associates Programme, we aim to enhance Dumfries and Galloway’s creative scene by offering free access to opportunities and paid commissions.

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